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Many of us ask the question of how to build muscle mass. Your skeletal muscles are like a machine. A machine that you can add parts to or allow to degenerate and run down.

All of us, with rare exceptions, start to develop our muscles from the moment we’re born. You might say we all begin intensive training as infants, which doesn’t let up for many years to come. We learn to force ourselves to sit up, then to crawl, then to walk and run. These activities take constant workouts, and automatically develop our muscles. We start in on competitive sports, most of us, at an early age, and begin to develop specialized muscle sets to bat or kick or dribble a ball; to swim in the water; to sprint down a track; to climb and jump. It’s a long list.

Then at some point in early adulthood there’s a definite divide in our physical activities; the majority choose to enjoy a comfortable life with only brief periodic exercise to maintain the muscle tone they already possess. But others decide that they want something more intense and competitive, and that they want a physique that is unforgettable. These are the ones that enter the world of resistance and endurance training, who commit to heavy doses of intense exercise which, to the uninitiated, looks almost like medieval torture.

Today this group of fanatics (fanatics is used here in a positive sense as being totally dedicated)  has a large body of scientific knowledge available to them on how to build muscle mass and maintain that growth, as well as how to repair the minor rips and tears that comes with a demanding exercise regimen.

One key element is diet. A diet high in carbohydrates and protein is essential to the dedicated bodybuilder as he or she participates in high intensity resistance training.

The amino acids in protein, especially the branched-chain amino acids known as BCAAs, are some of the key elements to a successful bodybuilder diet. Most often these BCAAs, especially the basic amino acid leucine, are taken as a liquid shake before and after a hard workout.

They are the fuel that keeps your muscles, your ‘machine’, going. Not only going but GROWING. Because of our genetic makeup our muscle groups normally don’t grow larger with large amounts of hard exercise; instead, they generously release glycogen back into the body at the molecular level to help nourish organs and tissues that are suffering under the unexpected tyranny of push ups, pull ups, weightlifting, etc.

In order to prevent this glycogen loss and encourage the muscles to keep it and even hoard it (which is how muscle mass is increased) the body needs massive amounts of BCAAs available during and after major workouts. When these amino acids are provided in bulk, the muscle systems latch onto it and even begin storing it — they no longer care about the problems of the rest of the body; they are saturated with the fuel they need and they won’t give it up.

Food high in amino acids include all of the Brassica family — cabbage, spinach, kale; organic animal meat (processed meat, like bologna, loses much of its leucine); and certain dairy products such as fermented kefir. But the amount you’d have to ingest to bring BCAA levels up enough to increase muscle mass would also produce indigestion. So most bodybuilders use a liquid nutritional supplement to introduce vital amino acids into the muscle system asap after an intense workout. This is the how muscles become ‘ripped’ and stay ‘ripped’ in the world of resistance training and bodybuilding.

Adam Legas

Adam Legas

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